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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

Are Byron Shire owners failing to register their Airbnbs?

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Hundreds of people who own short-term holiday rentals in the Byron Shire are flouting the State Government’s new registration rules, according to Victims of Holiday Letting (VOHL).

And letting platforms such as Airbnb and Stayz are doing nothing about it, they say.

But the organisation representing the owners of short-term holiday rentals has questioned the evidentiary basis of these claims, and pointed out that the registration rules have been in force in Byron for less than ten days.

As of January 31, the owners of short-term holiday rentals in the Shire were required to register their properties with the NSW Department of Planning.

This registration process is designed to ensure that owners are renting out safe, compliant dwellings that adhere to fire regulations, and that hosts are adhering to the government’s holiday letting Code of Conduct.

In a verbal submission to last week’s Byron Council meeting, a VOHL spokesperson said that, more than a week after the new rules were introduced, many local holiday rental owners had failed to register.

Other owners appeared to be falsely claiming that they were exempt from registering, he said.

‘An online search of Airbnb shows that many STRA (Short Term Rental Accommodation) properties in the Byron Shire had not registered by the mandatory date but were still being advertised,’ said the spokesperson, who asked that his name not be published for safety reasons.

‘This shows that Airbnb is not complying with the regulation.

‘Similar non-compliance is also being seen in Booking.com, Stayz, and a local holiday let management company.

‘Many homes are listed as “exempt” on the advertising.

‘It’s obvious that many of those listed as exempt should not be, but it appears that Airbnb has accepted their claims on face value.’ 

But John Gudgeon from the Holiday Letting Organisation (HLO), which advocates for the right of homeowners to holiday let their properties, said that simply searching through Airbnb was not a valid, scientific basis for making such claims.

‘There are many properties on Airbnb that are no longer active and so obviously would not have registered’, Mr Gudgeon said.

‘You can’t spend a couple of hours searching Airbnb and claim to have accurate information about the whole Shire.’

‘Aside from that, it’s February 8 – anyone could tell you that it takes time to work through the bureaucracy of registration, both at the owner’s end and at the department’s end.’

‘Everyone who I know [with a short-term rental] has registered.’

Mr Gudgeon also said that he believed Airbnb and the other letting platforms were taking their obligations seriously.

‘I know for a fact that they are sending things out to owners reminding them that they need to register,’ he said.

‘But expecting this all to be done by February 8? Goodness.’

Yet the VOHL spokesperson said that it was likely that some owners of holiday rentals had chosen not to register their properties because they were taking place in illegal or unauthorised dwellings.

This included those who had been granted consent to build a secondary dwelling by Byron Council on the proviso that they must not turn the dwelling into a short-term rental.

Mr Gudgeon said that his organisation supported stamping out the practice of renting out illegal dwellings.

‘No one in this sector wants anything to do with those activities,’ he said.

‘I would add, though, that there’s heaps of people doing dodgy stuff in this Shire and elsewhere across the State.’

Companies such as Airbnb face fines of up to $110,000 for failing to adhere to the government’s new holiday letting regime.

Individual property owners who fail to comply are first to receive a warning letter, and can then be fined up to $20,000.

‘We want the government to do what it has undertaken to do and start sending out warning letters,’ the VOHL spokesperson said. 

VOHL is asking the Council to contact the fair trading minister seeking action to ensure that Airbnb and other platforms abide by the regulations. 

The Echo asked the Department of Planning what action was being taken in relation to the enforcement of its new short-term rental accommodation rules.

A spokesperson replied, ‘Homeowners must register if they want to use their property for short-term accommodation – 1,616 Byron Bay properties have been reigistered so far’.

‘If someone is not complying with the rules, penalties may apply and anyone concerned should contact the local council to investigate’.


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10 COMMENTS

  1. There are many instances where registration is required. Holiday Let Owners are no different to someone renewing a driver licence. If you haven’t registered by renewing your licence you’ll be off the road within a week! If a Holiday Let Owner isn’t registered then they are operating ILLEGALLY.
    This could very well void any insurance with serious repercussions for ‘guests’.
    We are used to John’s fairy tales. He’s now dismissing sampling, an established method of formulating an opinion, or the assessment of how many people require education or hospital services. The sample may be as low as 1000 in a dataset of 100,000s.
    How is it that Holiday Let Owners with houses totally dedicating to Short Term Rental are still avoiding business rates?
    Where is their Social Licence when we factor in their distortion of the housing market and their contribution to homelessness?
    Doug Luke
    Coordinator VOHL

  2. An article of misinformation – The AirBNB algorithm DOES NOT allow a host to list their property unless they supply a PID-STRA number allocated by NSW Planning. If you log into http://www.airbnb.com and search for Byron Bay STHL’s, they all have PID-STRA numbers attached. If in doubt, pick a set of random dates in AirBNB for Byron Bay and open up each listing in turn. Every Property description ends with a number commencing with “PID-STRA-####”

    Also: If 1616 homeowners have replied to NSW Planning, that means the numbers are 50% down on 2019 when there were around 3200 active listings in Byron Bay in about January that year. It also means that 1616 listings ARE NOT acting ILLEGALLY and ARE trying to do the right thing just 9 days into the new planning regime. That’s a good thing.

    • Drongo., you are completely incorrect and your comment is full of misinformation. I have just spent the past 90 minutes examining the Airbnb website, checking for different locations in Byron Shire. There are many STRA that are registered but also many who have not registered, and still active, or claim to be exempt. Reading the advertisement for these so called exempt they clearly have claimed with Airbnb that they are exempt but have not met the criteria which has been stated by the DPIE. Clearly, there is no Airbnb algorithm as you state. Drongo you need to look again. Those without registration or falsely claim to be exempt will have their Airbnb listing sent to NSW Fair Trading as a complaint. The list is huge.

  3. Just Google Byron Bay AirBnB (or its rival Stayz) and you get a full list of properties for holiday let. Surely Council and the ATO etc etc do this and make it very difficult to stay below the radar and not register. It is hard if you are holiday letting to avoid Capital Gain Tax and pretend it is your 100% principle residence. Beware owners..

    • The names and addresses of the owners of each holiday let listed on Airbnb are not supplied. Airbnb refuses to give this information to Government citing privacy laws.

  4. Mr John Gudgeon is again acting as an apologist for the illegal actions of some short term rental accommodation (STRA) participants. He has presented incomplete information to justify his view.
    Mr Gudgeon should acquaint himself with the regulations in the Code of Conduct which he so desired.
    One regulation says “2.2.5 On and from the day that registration on the premises register becomes mandatory under
    planning laws, a booking platform must ensure that short-term rental accommodation
    premises are not advertised on the booking platform’s online booking service unless:
    (a) the premises is registered on the premises register, and
    (b) the registration number for the premises is displayed alongside the details of the
    premises on the booking platform’s online booking service.
    This section is an offence provision under section 54C of the Act and a civil penalty
    provision under section 54D of the Act.”
    The mandatory date for registration in Byron Shire was 31 January 2022, For the rest of NSW it was over 3 months ago on 1 November 2021.
    Legally, all unregistered STRA had to be delisted on the mandatory date. An examination of Airbnb website and other booking platforms shows that none of these booking platforms have legally complied with the regulation.
    Mr Gudgeon says “that simply searching through Airbnb was not a valid, scientific basis for making such claims” Mr Gudgeon’s statement is not valid as academic researchers do examine listings from booking platforms websites. NSW Fair Trading, the Department of Planning and Byron Council are also searching through the booking platforms websites.
    Mr Gudgeon says “‘There are many properties on Airbnb that are no longer active and so obviously would not have registered” Airbnb said in 2021 that they would do this. Mr Gudgeon would be aware that it only takes a few seconds for a host to make an unregistered STRA “active” again. Booking platforms are not meeting their legal obligation.
    Mr Gudgeon says ” anyone could tell you that it takes time to work through the bureaucracy of registration, both at the owner’s end and at the department’s end”. Mr Gudgeon failed to say that registration opened in April 2021 and that it is a simple online process answering a few basic questions and paying $65. The process was not difficult. How much more time was required?
    Mr Gudgeon states that he believes Airbnb and the other booking platforms were taking their obligations seriously. He failed to mention the track record of Airbnb overseas where Airbnb in July 2021 was fined E8.08 million by the highest French court for failing to delist unregistered STRA. Similarly, Barcelona City has fined Airbnb millions of euros for not complying with their registration regulations. Does this provide any confidence that Airbnb will comply with NSW legislation?
    Mr Gudgeon says ‘I would add, though, that there’s heaps of people doing dodgy stuff in this Shire and elsewhere across the State.’ I presume Mr Gudgeon is referring to all the illegal STRA owners who were breaking the law before the SEPP amendment became operational. “Goodness”.
    The team at the Department of Fair Trading dealing with STRA are aware of the shear scale of unregistered and falsely exempt STRA and work with the DPIE on this issue.

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